Can you help Mikey?

If you’ve lived in Dalston for any length of time, or even just walked through the shopping centre at Dalston Cross, you’re bound to have seen Mikey, Dalston’s favourite busker and Hackney’s friendliest man.

He’s out in all weathers. He’s had his ups and downs, and sometimes he struggles to make ends meet, but he fills the walkway at the back of the centre with music, chatter and laughter. He knows an impressive number of passers-by by name; knows their business; and shares his wisdom and local tales with anyone who’ll listen. He often collars me to ask about the chords to a song he’s working on, and I twist my head around to his left-handed way of seeing the world and talk him through voicings or bass lines—and next time I’m passing he’ll excitedly show me the progress he’s made. It makes us both very proud.

Today I stopped and I could tell that it wasn’t a good day for Mikey. He’d made 40p all morning, and his fingers are raw. He tells me he’s going to lose his flat; he’s got a pile of bills and the walls are closing in.

—“Can I tell you what I think?” I asked him. “You might not like it.”
—“Sure, someone needs to tell me something. I can’t keep on like this.”
—“Excuse me for saying it, but it’s almost like you have to punish yourself with this. No one tells you to come here. We love it that you’re here, but if you’re not making enough money to survive you have to do something else.”

As I’m saying this, he’s already walking up to one of the minicab drivers and puts his arm around him. He takes his hand and says something quietly to him.

He comes back to me.

—“That’s Muhammad,” he says, “he’s just back from Pakistan. He was in Peshawar when the earthquake struck last month. Some people in his village were made homeless. I haven’t seen him since he got back… Thing is, David” he continues, “I don’t have a family. This is my family.” He takes a big, expansive swing at the scene before us, people strolling by, kids running, buggies, a guy smoking, a mobility scooter, the man collecting the Sainsbury’s trolleys together, and me. “And everyone wants to spend time with their family. I can’t give that up.”

And that’s the long and short of it. Mikey is embedded in our lives, he is right at the heart of our community but his life is falling apart. Mikey was homeless for 15 years and finally got homed by the council last year. But all that’s about to change unless he sorts something out.


[Photo: David Altheer / Loving Dalston]

Mikey was a sound engineer. He worked on albums with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page; he had gold records on his walls and he travelled the world. And Mikey had his demons, and his demons won.

How can you help? I said I’d tweet something, and this is my best effort. Do you have work for Mikey? Maybe a few hours a week? Perhaps sorting cables in a rehearsal studio, or shifting boxes in a warehouse, or clearing up, or lugging something, or a gazillion other things he could do. He needs to be out busking too, but he cannot earn a living that way right now, and winter’s coming. So a few hours here and there, a bit of cash-in-hand, could make all the difference. If you needed a reference or guarantor, I’d vouch for him. So get in touch with me @dalstondavid if you think you have anything for Mikey. He’s family.

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